MINNEAPOLIS: Protests flared late into the night in many cities in the United States over the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died this week after being pinned down by the neck by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
The sometimes violent demonstrations hit cities from New York to Atlanta in a tide of anger over the treatment of minorities by law enforcement.
Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer shown in video footage pinning Floyd down on the street with his knee, was charged with murder in the case on Friday.
Chauvin, who was dismissed from the police with three fellow officers the day after Monday’s fatal encounter, was arrested on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges for his role in the death of Floyd, 46.
In Detroit, a 19-year-old man protesting in the city was shot dead on Friday night by a suspect who pulled up to demonstrators in a sport utility vehicle and fired gunshots into the crowd, then fled, the Detroit Free Press and other local media reported. Police could not immediately be reached for comment.
Hundreds in the city had joined a “March Against Police Brutality” late in the afternoon outside the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.
Many chanted, “No justice, no peace.” Some carried signs that read, “End police brutality” and “I won’t stop yelling until everyone can breathe.”
Thousands of chanting protesters filled the streets of New York City’s Brooklyn borough near the Barclays Centre indoor arena. Police armed with batons and pepper spray made scores of arrests in sometimes violent clashes.
In lower Manhattan, demonstrators at a “We can’t breathe” vigil and rally were pressing for legislation outlawing the police “chokehold” used by a city police officer in the 2014 death of Eric Garner, who was also black.
In Washington, police and Secret Service agents were out in force around the White House before dozens of demonstrators gathered across the street in Lafayette Square chanting,”I can’t breathe.”
The protests erupted and spread around the country this week after video footage taken by an onlooker’s cell phone was widely circulated on the internet. It shows Floyd gasping for air and repeatedly groaning, “Please, I can’t breathe,” while a crowd of bystanders shouted at police to let him up.
The video reignited rage that civil rights activists said has long simmered in Minneapolis and cities across the country over persistent racial bias in the US criminal justice system.
Chaotic scenes in Atlanta
In Atlanta, Bernice King, the youngest daughter of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., implored people to go home on Friday night after more than 1,000 protesters marched to the state capitol from the Centennial Olympic Park, blocking traffic and an interstate highway along the way.
The demonstration turned chaotic and at times violent. Fires burned in downtown Atlanta near the CNN Centre, the network’s headquarters.
At least one police car was among several vehicles burnt. Windows were smashed at the CNN building, along with store fronts. Police pushed back the crowd, but they hurled bottles at officers.
Protesters also took to the streets in other cities including Denver and Houston.
In Minneapolis, hundreds of protesters defied an 8 p.m. curfew to gather in the streets around a police station burnt the previous night.
“We are out here because we, as a generation, realize things have to change,” said one marcher, Paul Selman, a 25-year-old black man.
The charges brought by Hennepin County prosecutors against the police officer came after a third night of arson, looting and vandalism in which protesters set fire to a police station, and the National Guard was deployed to help restore order in Minnesota’s largest city.
Authorities had hoped Chauvin’s arrest would allay public anger. But defying an 8 p.m. curfew imposed by Mayor Jacob Frey, about 500 demonstrators clashed anew with riot police outside the battered Third Precinct building.
Police, creating a two-block buffer area around the precinct house, opened fire with tear gas, plastic bullets and concussion grenades, scattering the crowd.
Another group of protesters later converged near the city’s Fifth Precinct station until police arrived and fired tear gas and plastic bullets to break up that gathering. A nearby bank and post office were set on fire.
Still, Friday night’s crowds were far smaller and more widely dispersed than the night before.
Law enforcement kept a mostly low profile, a strategy seemingly calculated to reduce the risk of violent confrontations, as was the case in several urban centres across the country where sympathy protests arose.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, announcing Chauvin’s arrest, said the investigation into Chauvin, who faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, was ongoing and he anticipated also charging the three other police officers, identified by the city as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng.
Floyd, a Houston native who had worked security for a nightclub, was arrested for allegedly using counterfeit money at a store to buy cigarettes on Monday evening.